The Young at Yucca Tap Room, 1/4/12

The Young, Mangled Men, ROAR, The Plainfield Butchers Yucca Tap Room Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Bits of Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney's interview with Rolling Stone started hitting the web yesterday, with the bespectacled musician stating: "Rock 'n' roll is dying because people became okay with Nickelback being the biggest band in the world."

The statement came off a bit caddish to me. Don't misread: Nickelback is awful, even if pointing that out feels a little pointless these days (it's kind of a "duh" thing). What rubs me wrong is that first thing, the part about "rock 'n' roll dying." Really? The drummer of a band that's earned its success The Hard Way -- years of touring, slogging it out on indie labels, winning over fans one passionate record at a time -- is really going off on such an absurd idea as rock 'n' roll being dead?

I bring it up because I saw Austin, Texas' The Young last night at the Yucca Tap Room. On paper, there's nothing remarkable to point out, just four dudes, an un-googleable band name, and an album, 2010's Voyagers of Legend, a crunchy, hooky minor-masterpiece of Hüsker Dü distortion, Dinosaur Jr guitar solos, and blissful melodies. It's a phenomenal record, and it won the band a "We Signed These Guys" notice on Matador Records' Matablog, and the hope for big things ahead.

But last night wasn't a big thing; it was a rock show in a bar. Following excellent sets by locals The Plainfield Butchers, ROAR, and Mangled Men (the latter two showing off exciting new material), the four Texans took the stage, tweed amps, and Rickenbacker bass in tow.

Mostly showing off new material ("Bird in the Bush" from Voyagers... received an impassioned airing, but how do you keep playing the same songs for two years?), the band demonstrated that the LP was merely a starting point. The new songs tapped into a guitar web like The Dream Syndicate's did Neil Young, with long, expressive leads and steady drumming.

It reminded me of Smashing Pumpkins, in how that band borrowed My Bloody Valentine's woozy, weighty sonic touch and paired it with New Order shimmy and cock rock shake, only The Young don't do that so much as rumble "Loomer" -style over the same kind of Americana being played by War on Drugs and Kurt Vile (but rowdier, meaner, and more pop-focused than either).

They played for about 45 minutes, before packing up their merch, conversing with the meager crowd, and heading off "to sleep on Alex's floor."

Call me an idealist, Mr. Carney of the Black Keys, but I'll be concerned about the "death of rock 'n' roll" when cranking bands aren't playing free, sweaty (it's only January) shows on a Wednesday night at my neighborhood dive bar.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: The Young, Plainfield Butchers, ROAR and Mangled Men at Yucca Tap Room

The Crowd: Other folks in bands, indie rockers. It was sparse all night, but especially thin toward the end. No one seemed to care.

By the Way: Enjoyed that Angry Angles cover, Butchers.

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.